This paper focuses on the material study (radiocarbon dating, wood identification and strontium isotope analyses) of four large 'India occidentali' clubs, part of the founding collections of the Ashmolean Museum, in Oxford, and originally part of John Tradescant's 'Ark', in Lambeth (1656). During the seventeenth century, the term 'India occidentali/occidentales' referred not only to the 'West Indies' (its literal translation), but to the Americas as a whole; hence, the Ashmolean clubs and, indeed, the c forty examples of similarly large, decorated clubs known in international museum collections had no firm provenance and lacked even the most basic information. Previous attempts at attribution, based on stylistic comparisons with nineteenth- to twentieth-century Brazilian and Guyanese clubs, have proved inconclusive given the unique features of this club style, raising the intriguing possibility that these may be exceptionally rare examples of 'Island Carib' (Kalinago) material culture, particularly as images of such clubs appear in seventeenth-century ethnographic accounts from the Lesser Antilles. This paper provides new data for these poorly known objects from early collections, revealing not only the type of wood from which they were carved (Platymiscium sp. and Brosimum cf guianense) and their probable dates of manufacture (c AD 1300-1640), but also their possible provenance (strontium results are consistent with a possible range from Trinidad south to French Guiana).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-218
Number of pages32
JournalThe Antiquaries Journal
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2018

ID: 37990233